Wondering how to improve your warehouse pick rate? You’re not alone. As eCommerce and retail grows, every warehouse wants to improve the efficiency and accuracy of their employees by moving the needle on warehouse picks per hour.
It might be time to look at your technology.
If you’re using clipboards and old school scanners, it’s more than likely reaping havoc on your picks per hour. It’s the least efficient method of warehouse picking because pickers are forced to look back and forth between inventory and paper to get and confirm the product info, opening them up to errors.
Imagine for a moment: the picker locates the desired item, scans its location A, looks down to holster their scanner, then returns to grab the product in front of them from picks the product from location B. Uh oh. New employees, who haven't learned the ropes or memorized the layout of the warehouse, are the biggest culprits of this kind of miss-pick, but even a seasoned pickers make this kind of mistake.
You're also likely losing major efficiency. Without optimized routes, a great deal of time is wasted by your associates, especially new ones, wandering up and down aisles looking for the items on their clipboards - especially if they’re picking for multiple orders.
All of this time compounds over time and is likely costing you more than you think.
But there’s good news. Much progress has been made in warehouse picking technology and there are a few trends that should help your warehouse be a lot more efficient.
30 Second Summary
- DHL increased productivity by 15% when they implemented a vision picking wearble
- Artificial reality-based picking technology can help new employees pick 37% faster
- Voice-picking can help increase pick rate, but, when used alone, allows for more mis-picks and mis-shipments
What is Vision Picking?
Vision picking technology leverages augmented reality smart glasses that provide visual cues to direct warehouse pickers to specified locations to fulfill orders.
Warehouse efficiency can be increased dramatically using vision picking technologies. The real-time feedback and verification vision picking technology provides reduces cognitive load and, consequently, costly miss-picks and miss-ships. In addition, new employees take less time to onboard and make fewer mistakes because they can rely on visual cues.
Computer vision picking uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify and process objects with pattern recognition. Computer vision technology attempts to replicate human abilities, making headlines in recent years with advancements in driverless cars.
While some advanced warehouses use robotics to pick and fulfill orders, computer vision picking is more typically used alongside other enterprise wearables such as smart glasses.
Computer vision picking tends to be a lot more accurate that traditional methods, but the primary limitation is speed. Computers are (fortunately?) not yet advanced enough to make the same logical leaps necessary to deal with missing barcodes or damaged products.
What is Voice Picking?
Voice picking, also known as pick by voice, speech-based picking, and voice-directed warehousing (VDW), is a picking technology for warehouses and distribution centers where the employee is directed to locations using a headset and microphone.
Voice picking is a mostly hands-free solution for increasing productivity and efficiency, however, there are some considerable drawbacks to consider.
The primary downside is that voice picking doesn’t provide the same level of validation as other wearable technology and requires a lot of concentration and memorization, making it a less accurate solution than others. Mis-picks and mis-shipments are more common and costly.
Picking by voice is also slower than vision picking. It takes more time for a picker to listen for which item they need to grab, quantity, and location than it would be for them to quickly scan it across a page or on augmented reality glasses.
Another thing to consider is whether your warehouse currently, or plans to, employ non-native English speakers. If so, pick by voice might not be the right solution for you. There are, however, wearable warehouse technologies that might work for you, such as AR-based picking, which we’ll discuss later.
The last thing to consider is cost. As you move away from traditional paper methods, warehouse technology begins to get expensive.
Combine Vision and Voice Picking
The good news is, you don't have to choose one or the other. Voice and vision picking can be combined with wearable technologies that will give you the best of both worlds.
AR Smart Glasses
Smart glasses that use augmented reality (AR) technology and computer vision is a growing warehouse picking technology that is taking the industry by storm because it leverages the the best aspects of both voice and vision picking.
Hands-free, heads-up display warehouse solutions, like smart glasses, provide visual and audio cues that can help increase picking speed and reduce picking errors by eliminating need to go back-and-forth between clipboard and inventory.
With wearable glasses, warehouse and grocery employees don't have to be experienced with the warehouse or product because the glasses provide visual cues for where to go and what to pick. In fact, in a recent study analyzing AR-based picking, they were able to improve the pick rate of inexperienced employees by 37% compared to traditional clipboard-based picking. But not only were they improving warehouse picks per hour, they were also picking more accurately.
Smart glasses also typically come equipped with voice picking technology that allows associates to enter quantities, weights, and navigate the system using voice commands. This allows pickers to bypass buttons that can be a cumbersome, causing accidental keystrokes that cause errors - making it the best of both worlds and truly hands-free.
Artificial reality-based picking technology can help new employees pick 37% faster.
Lastly, smart glasses can help optimize your workforce and fulfill more order, faster. The time it takes to walk from location to location makes up the majority of the time it takes to fulfill an order. Technologies equipped with machine learning - like Ox - can decrease picking time by providing optimized routes for pickers - even multiple orders at once.
How Does it Work?
How do vision and voice picking technologies combine into a single solution for retail and warehouse pickers?
- Depending on whether you're trying to find a solution for your warehouse or retail storefront, you'll want to integrate your picking technology with an order management systems (OMS) or eCommerce storefront for real-time order information or an inventory management software (IMS) to route orders appropriately.
- WMS and picking systems are integrated to ensure real-time accuracy and visibility.
- An order, or batch of orders, is dispatched to AR-equipped smart glasses as pick walks.
- The smart glasses then direct the employee to a location using simple, universally recognizable and color-coded visual symbols and visual.
- The picker takes the specified item and quantity that appears on the glasses and scans the location or the item barcode to verify they correct item.
- Next, the picker uses the 3 built-in microphones, swipe gestures, and bluetooth-connected barcode scanner to enter weights and accept quantities.
- Once the correct item and quantities has been selected, the item is put into a designated bin and the picker is instructed on where to go next. Picking technology that uses machine learning can provide optimized routes so pickers can fulfill multiple orders at once without backtracking.
- In the event the item is out-of-stock, the picker makes a note of it using buttons on the smart glasses and receives smart replacements, if applicable.
- If something is miss-picked, the associate is immediately flagged by the smart glasses so it can be corrected.
And that's it! By leveraging the voice and vision technology inside smart glasses, your associates will be done with those pick walks lightening fast.
What's Better: Vision or Voice Picking?
Which technology is right for you will depend on your warehouse’s specific needs and goals, but one thing is for sure: if you want to increase efficiency, you should look to one of these emerging technologies. 93% of survey respondents in a recent study expect to adopt wearable technology by 2028.
A few factors to consider when making your decision:
- Cost of equipment
- Warehouse loudness
- Employee turnover
- Employee languages
- Current cost of miss-picks and miss-ships
Ox provides a hybrid of vision and AR-picking that makes warehouse pickers 25% more efficient and 20% more accurate than traditional methods. We can also integrate with your existing smart devices.